Ukraine said on Tuesday that the battle for Bakhmut, an industrial city in the Donbas and the site of the longest battle of the Russian occupation, was key to keeping Moscow on the entire front.
“The defensive operation in this area is of decisive strategic importance to deter the enemy. It is key to the stability of the defense of the entire front,” said Ukraine’s top military official, Valery Zaluzhny.
The Ukrainian city’s defenses are becoming precarious, with Russian ground forces led by the Wagner mercenary group reporting gains while signaling the city could soon be surrounded.
But President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said in a statement on Tuesday that the Ukrainian leader had met with senior military commanders and agreed that his forces would remain in the attacked city.
Analysts have played down Bakhmut’s strategic importance as a military prize, but the city has gained significant political status, with both sides pouring resources into the war.
The city, which had a pre-war population of around 70,000, remains an important urban center in the Donetsk region, which the Kremlin claimed it annexed last year despite not fully controlling.
The head of the Russian-imposed Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, told reporters on Tuesday that “fierce battles” were taking place “for every meter” of Bakhmut.